Two teens who learned the importance of giving back to the Jewish community from their own families shared that message of caring with volunteers at the annual Super Sunday phonathon of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County.
Delivering their own message at the federation’s South River offices on Nov. 20 — that every dollar contributed strengthens the Jewish community at home and overseas — the teens were part of the major fund-raising effort that brought in $509,868, an increase of $15,000 over the previous year despite a weak economy.
“At first I wanted to be more involved because I wanted to be like my parents: dedicated, enthusiastic, and influential members of the Jewish federation,” said Amanda Zimmerman of Kendall Park. “Then it became more personal.”
A member of the J-Team teen philanthropy group of federation, Amanda said that by taking part in Super Sunday she “became inspired by the difference we were making in other people’s lives.”
Zach Mandell of East Brunswick described himself as a third-generation community supporter whose grandmother, Susan Mandell, a former federation president, “provided a path for my parents and me to follow.”
However, it was his experience on J-Team that melded that family background with the skills necessary to raise funds for a wide variety of worthy charities. In addition to his Jewish community efforts, Zach now speaks to high school students in New Jersey and Pennsylvania about organ donation and has started a socially responsible investors club based on Jewish values at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple.
Volunteer callers staffing the Super Sunday phones told potential donors about the federation’s support for needy seniors locally and in the former Soviet Union, local day and Hebrew schools, and a host of programs in Israel.
“This year we encouraged our callers to have a conversation with members of our community to create a real awareness of what we do,” said associate executive director Susan Antman. “Many people don’t realize the extent of the programs and services we offer young and old that help to build Jewish identity and to assist the less fortunate around the world and here in our own community.”
In line with that message, and new this year, federation staff members shared during the training sessions inspirational stories with the volunteers and asked them to think about their own stories about benefiting from the federation or its agencies before making their fund-raising phone calls. They were also asked to find out what inspires donors to give and record this information.
“In this time of reduced government grants and Washington’s being paralyzed and the economy continuing to decline, the impact of charitable giving through the federation is greater than ever,” said federation executive director Gerrie Bamira. “Together with our partner agencies, we fill the gap for those who are unemployed, hungry, and in need; forge strong connections to Israel; and inspire the next generation to embrace Jewish life.”
The federation plans additional rounds of “call backs” on Nov. 28 and 29 and Dec. 5.
“In the coming weeks, volunteers will be reaching out to community members who were not home on Super Sunday,” said campaign chair Keith Zimmerman. “The needs in our community are great, and we are committed to reaching our overall Super Sunday fund-raising goal of $494,572.”
During the phonathon, children wearing oversized Super Sunday T-shirts scurried around picking up pledge cards. Callers sporting baseball caps from Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva worked the phones next to students and adults wearing the red shirts of Rutgers Hillel. Both are beneficiaries of the federation.
“Our volunteers are amazing,” said federation president Arlene Frumkin. “Their energy and commitment is inspiring and we couldn’t raise these critical funds without their support.”
Federation’s central theme of connecting to other Jews was evident among volunteers.
“I believe in federation,” said Debra Fisher of East Brunswick, who was there with her nine- year-old son, Matty, a student at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Raritan Valley, a federation beneficiary.
Volunteers, who made calls in three different shifts, paused as politicians dropped by to lend their support and offer words of encouragement. Among those who came were Representatives Frank Pallone (D-Dist. 6) and Rush Holt (D-Dist. 12), who joined volunteers on the phones; state Senators Linda Greenstein (D-Dist. 14) and Joseph Vitale (D-Dist. 19); Edison Mayor Antonia Ricigliano; and Michelle Moallem, Gov. Chris Christie’s Jewish community liaison.